On Friday in Liberal, the Garden City Broncbusters battled with the host Seward County Saints in a pair of one-run games to open a four-game weekend series.
The two teams split the twin bill, and returned to Garden City on Sunday to finish off the series, and the Busters had a shot to make a big jump up the KJCCC West standings — the seven teams were all separated by two games.
Instead, the Busters fell further behind in the division race, getting rolled by Seward County in 12-2 and 11-3 losses.
“We didn’t play well all day,” GCCC head coach Chris Finnegan said. “It all started in the first inning of the first game today. We have their three-hole hitter 1-2 with two outs, and then give up six-consecutive singles. We couldn’t stop it, and then it just continued the rest of the day.”
The Busters fell to 23-16 overall and 9-11 in the West, a full four games behind division leaders Colby and Hutchinson, as well as Seward County (23-18, 15-9). Butler and Cloud County are three games ahead and sixth-place Barton is two games ahead.
“It’s who we’ve been all year,” Finnegan said. “It’s what team is going to show up. When do they want to play and how hard do they want to play? Every coach will tell you, there’s two things you can’t teach and that’s attitude and effort. That’s on them to figure out.”
The Busters were still within striking distance going into the fifth inning of the day’s opener, but things fell apart in that frame. Seward County singled on its first three at-bats, plating one, and Joe Kuhn walked to lead the bases.
After a hit-by-pitch plated one, a sacrifice fly scored another to make it 8-1. Then, KP Werner singled in two more, before Cayde Ward delivered the final blow, a first-pitch home run to left to make it 12-1.
The Busters were able to plate one in the bottom half of the inning on Brenden Andersen’s sacrifice fly, but not enough to avoid the run-rule.
Seward starter Chandler Poell recorded the complete game win, giving up five hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts, while Buster starter Connery O’Donnell was rocked for 12 hits and nine runs in his four innings of work. Andrew Sumner gave up two hits and three earned runs in his inning of relief.
After falling behind early again, the Busters were a foot away from tying it in the fourth, when Chris Lara nearly sliced one inside of the right field foul line, which would have scored two to draw the Busters even at 4, but it was a foot foul.
Dakota Finley eventually did score on a wild pitch to make it 4-3, but that’s as close as they would get.
“We work to get to within 4-3, and within six pitches it’s 6-3,” Finnegan said.
What he was referencing was shortstop Griffin Brunson airmailed a throw to first to allow the first Saints’ batter to reach, and then Benny Ayala doubled to left, before Zane Alexander singled a batter later to plate both.
Garden City never recovered.
“When you give up nine free bases in Game 2 and six of them are because of the left side of the infield kicking six balls, it’s going to be tough,” Finnegan said.